With his gaze glued to Mitch’s, Frederick raised Paul’s hand to his nose and inhaled deeply.
Time slowed to a stop while Mitch waited for his brother’s reaction.
“Tell my brother where to find the Omega,” Frederick said quietly, still looking at Mitch. He lowered his chin in a barely perceptible nod. “Mitch will take care of him.”
As he kicked the last of the dirt over his mother’s grave, bone deep exhaustion nearly brought Simon Moorehead to his knees, but at least he’d delivered his mother home to rest. She had left Blue Mountain for him, and he had returned for her. There was a certain harmony in that, albeit an ironic one. But harmony or not, he had to leave the territory before another welcoming committee was dispatched to greet him. He darted his gaze around the surrounding landscape, looking for a flat rock to pound down the loose earth. Once he found an appropriate stone, he shifted into his human form, lifted it with both hands, and returned to the grave where he used the last of his energy to repeatedly raise and then slam down the rock, packing the soil.
Shocked by the deep, rumbling voice, Simon lost his balance and toppled onto his backside. “Who’s there?” He held the stone in front of him like a weapon as he jerked his head from side to side and squinted, trying to see beyond the surrounding trees by the light of the moon.
“Relax, little one.”
He had his answer—it was a pack member who mistook his size for weakness. Well, Simon would prove him wrong just as he had the others. He’d been banished at age twelve and spent the next thirteen years learning how to take care of himself. Shifters underestimated him because they were led by scent and sight and refused to look beneath the surface. They didn’t expect an Omega to fight or disobey. But Simon had learned to act as strong as any Alpha. And if rejecting his true nature meant his soul suffered and withered, ultimately leading him to the same demise as his mother, so be it.
“Show yourself,” he demanded as he stood.
The direction of the wind changed, and Simon caught scent of the other shifter before he saw him. Alpha. The urge to bare his neck and roll over hit him deep in the gut. Forcing himself to ignore it, he mentally recited his mantra: Never show weakness. Stay in charge of every situation. Don’t back down. He wouldn’t be a slave to reactions he couldn’t control. He was better than that, stronger than that.
Then the biggest man he had ever seen stepped into the clearing. Broad was an understatement in describing his shoulders. He was almost twice as wide as Simon and well over half a foot taller. “Drop the rock,” he said, piercing Simon with black eyes.
Grateful for the reminder that he could use the tool as a weapon, Simon ignored the wetness dripping along his forearm, raised the rock above his head, and said, “Back away.”
A growl was Simon’s only warning before the Alpha grabbed his wrist and forced him to release his hold on the stone.
“Let me go!” Simon tried to yank his arm away from the powerful grip but strained his shoulder instead. He’d never come across anyone so large and powerful. The timing was terrible because Simon was already running on fumes, worn down soul-deep, but he gathered whatever energy he had left and tried to fight.
“You’ve injured yourself.” The Alpha clasped Simon’s hip with his free hand, further impeding his movement. “Stop.”
Grunting in denial, Simon struggled to get free. His backpack was a thirty minute hike away at the campsite. If he could shift and get there, he’d have his supplies and enough cash to get out of the Blue Mountain territory.
“Let me go, and I’ll leave,” he said. Then, his gut rebelling at the possibility the Alpha would consider that a concession on his part, he added, “Like I told the men you sent, I have no intention of staying here.” He wriggled. “Let me go.”
“I sent nobody.” The Alpha’s voice was deep and rough, like his face. “Be still.”
With a grip just shy of painful, he raised Simon’s hand, leaned forward, and nostrils flaring, he inhaled deeply.
“Males can be Omegas,” Simon resentfully answered the inevitable question. “It doesn’t make us weak.”
“Not weak.” Bottomless black eyes peered at him as the Alpha shocked him to his core by parting his lips and licking his palm. “Mine.”
Involuntarily, Simon trembled. The Alpha wanted blood—more blood than he was getting by lapping at Simon’s wounded hand, which meant he was feral, his animal half overrunning his human half and driving him to kill.
When the giant leaned forward, going for his jugular, Simon delivered a well-placed kick to the groin and then went limp, making himself dead weight. The strategy worked—the Alpha lost his grip and Simon toppled to the ground. Before his attacker could react, he scurried out of reach, shifted into his wolf, and ran.